Thursday, August 05, 1999

Where to see a tennis star




BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's happening again: The royalty of the tennis world — 56 of the best, including the world's top 10 ranked players — are hitting town.

        Some are here now, more are on the way for the Great American Insurance ATP Championship at Mason's ATP Tennis Center. Seniors play today through Saturday. Main draw is Monday through Aug. 15.

        They're here to play tennis, and right seriously. No one fools around with a $2.45 million purse, including $361,000 to the winner. But they also play a bit around town.

        Like where? Like here ...

        • Almost all of them squeeze a visit to Paramount's Kings Island between practice sessions and tournament play. The ATP has volunteers who arrange admission, and since PKI's right across the street, it's an easy, cheap trip.

        You probably won't see the crowd-shy superstars — Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter — but the rest are sure to turn up.

        In past years, the Beast was always the magnet that drew them. Probably the same this year.

        • The Beach, a short hop down the road, is always another must stop. Even Sampras and Agassi have done it, but late at night. The park opens after hours for the big stars who want the place to themselves.

        • The Golf Center at Kings Island, adjacent to the tennis center, will be mobbed with players. According to Ellen Miller, co-chair of the Player Services Committee, which reserves tee times and lines up carts. “I think they play golf more than tennis.”

        Especially the seniors hanging around after their tournament ends. Some, Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson for example, play every day.

        • Main Street always draws a crowd, but usually later in the tournament when players start getting eliminated. Most of them don't stay out half the night carousing when they have an 11 a.m. match the next day.

        Look for the wonderfully bizarre Luke and Murphy Jensen here, especially at any bar with a live band. The brothers have their own band — it's called We Never Heard of You, Either, with Murphy on guitar, Luke on bass. But they love to sit in with locals. Jefferson Hall is a particular favorite, especially on weekends.

        Sometimes they show up alone, sometimes with an entourage that may or may not include other players.

        • Although the biggies tend to lay low, they do sometimes venture out. Sampras and then girlfriend Kimberly Williams turned up last year at Riverbend for a Riverdance performance that he absolutely loved. (It's here Aug. 11-22 at the Aronoff, so that might be good for a sighting.)

        • As long as you're downtown, check the Maisonette. Both Sampras and Agassi have been spotted there in the past. Other favorites among the players, particularly the high profile guys, are the Precinct, Waterfront, Mike Fink and Palace.

        • Wondering if you're at the right spot? Check the parking lots for new Mercedes. Most players get a loaner, almost always a Mercedes because, after all, the ATP is one of the Mercedes Super 9.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

        Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

KNIPPENBERG ARCHIVE